If you are reading this column, then you most likely are aware of the unfortunate situation that occurred at the Tournament of Champions last week involving Justin Thomas. Normally, I would be writing about the leisurely lessons learned while out drinking with friends, but I felt that this was a more important topic for this week’s “First Tee to Closing TIme.”
I’ll start by saying that using any language that is demeaning to anyone should never be tolerated. I am a Justin Thomas fan, and I believe the subsequent apologies were genuine and heartfelt. I do not agree with how the situation (at least at current) is being handled by the PGA. I feel it is completely unacceptable that a suspension and or fine was not issued immediately following the tournament end.
This is not the first time that a player has been caught using homophobic slurs. Scott Piercy posted an anti-gay slur on his Instagram just last year. He was immediately dropped by his main sponsors. At the time of this writing, Thomas has not been dropped by any sponsors, nor has the PGA commented on any disciplinary actions.
For a sport that is striving to be more inclusive across the board, I see the lack of action as a step backwards. I don’t know that I have an answer for what I think the penalty should be, just that there should be some repercussion for this type of behavior. People make mistakes. People say things they shouldn’t. But it’s the responsibility of the governing body to hold players accountable.
In the future, there needs to be a stronger response to players’ actions on the PGA tour. This is a rapidly growing sport with higher visibility than ever before. These athletes need to be conscious of the fact that they are in the public eye and that lapses of character or judgment are unacceptable.
Many of the problems starting to arise are due to the number of microphones and coverage on the course and to the lack of fans at tournaments. The amount of times I have heard profanity clear as day while watching golf over the last year is amazing. That’s actually kind of mild compared to some of the things you hear. I’m not saying that that’s an excuse for the things coming out of these golfers’ mouths. I’m just making the observation that it’s becoming more visible.
And it’s not just golf. Virtually every sport is falling victim to this problem. We need a better solution, or at minimum, more accountability for the athletes as change needs to happen sooner rather than later.
Be better. Be respectful, not just of the other competitors, but also the rest of the world that’s watching you. Use your platform positively and responsibly.
Here’s to hoping we have a more positive event at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii, for the Sony Open this week. The course is playing at just more than 7,000 yards as a par 70. The greens are Bermuda again this week. Overall, the course is fairly short with the longest hole playing at 533 yards.The forecast looks to be relatively calm with some afternoon showers Friday and Sunday.
This is the first full-field event of the year.
144 players will tee off Thursday. The defending champion is Cameron Smith who finished at -11. Last year’s cut line was +1, but the scoring was a bit of an anomaly. Scores should be closer to the low-to-mid 20s under par with a cut line closer to 2 or 3 under par.
This week I am focusing on accurate players. Since it’s a shorter course, I’m weighing proximity stats and good approach shots. Bombers don’t seem to have much of an edge here. And I’m not going to lie, I’m not crazy about the sub-$7,000 range this week. Most of my lineups will stay away from that tier of players.
Sony Open Plays
Webb Simpson ($11,000)
I love Webb Simpson at a shorter course that requires accuracy and consistency. In his last four starts here, he has finished tied for 13th twice, tied for second and third. Over the last 36 rounds, Simpson is in the top two in seven out of the 10 shots-gained metrics I use.
He is No. 1 for the field in shots gained total, and he’s No. 2 in the field in shots-gained approach and putting. Simpson is also No. 1 in bogey avoidance and No. 1 in birdies or better gained. This course sets up so well for him. His ownership is looking to be around 20 percent, but I’ll eat the chalk with him this week.
Kevin Kisner ($8,800)
Kevin Kisner is on record as loving this course and this event. In his last five starts here, he’s had three top-five finishes. Kisner is not a bomber, but he is accurate, and I like his approach game. He’s arguably one of the best putters on tour. He’s in the top third of the field over the last 36 rounds and rates out 14th in shots gained total. I think Kisner has a good chance to finish inside the top five this week.
Chez Reavie ($7,400)
Chez Reavie is a player I’m often wrong on. Proceed with caution. I’m trusting my model with him. He rates out No. 2 for me behind Webb Simpson, and you can easily play them together this week. Spanning the last 36 rounds, Reavie is rated at No. 1 in shots-gained approach, No. 1 in ball striking and second in shots-gained total. He has a good course history with two top-10 finishes. Unfortunately, he does have one missed cut at this event, and it was last year. I’m willing to trust Reavie and the stats this week. Here’s hoping he comes through!
Other Golfers I Like this Week
Ryan Palmer ($9,200)
Sungjae Im ($9,800)
Joaquin Niemann ($10,400)
Sergio Garcia ($8,300)
Kyle Stanley ($7,200)
Thanks for reading, and good luck this week!
Conor Coughlin @aRandomGr3nade